ROME (AP) – The Italian Ministry of Health is asking government advisers to evaluate new World Health Organization recommendations, saying that people with COVID-19 can get out of isolation before testing negative for the corona virus.
The WHO said last week that patients who have spent 10 consecutive days in isolation with symptoms can be released if they are subsequently symptom-free for at least three days. People who don’t develop COVID-19 symptoms can stop isolating 10 days after they first tested positive, according to revised WHO guidelines.
Earlier, the WHO recommended that isolation of infected people should only be terminated after they had been tested negative twice on samples taken 24 hours apart. The change is significant, as many countries struggle with how to deal with thousands of people technically infected with the virus, but may still not pose a transfer risk to others.
The UN health agency said it had updated its recommendations because recovered COVID-19 patients still tested positive for the virus weeks later. Despite their results, “these patients are unlikely to be contagious, and therefore they are unlikely to be able to transmit the virus to another person,” said the WHO.
Italy, the one-time epicenter of the pandemic in Europe, followed the earlier WHO testing advice, with some people isolating themselves, even though they felt good about continuing to test positive for the coronavirus.
A woman made headlines in Italy for testing positive six times over the course of 57 days, even though she was feeling well. But technically she had to stay isolated.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza asked the Italian government’s scientific and technical advisory committee on Sunday for advice on the new WHO recommendations, noting that they marked an “important” change in the Italian management of COVID-19 patients.
Speranza said in a statement that the updated opinion may also change how the government counts that has officially recovered from the virus and recommended “maximum precautions”.
Anecdotally, doctors have said that many of Italy’s new confirmed cases are due to people being tested for the virus after doing blood tests looking for COVID-19 antibodies.
In Italy, those who have developed antibodies are automatically tested specifically for the coronavirus, with some positive results in people who have been sick much before or have never felt sick.
Italy reported 224 new coronavirus cases and 24 deaths in the past day on Sunday, bringing the country’s official death toll to the pandemic at 34,634.
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